This is a contributed blog post from our partners at 8x8.
Phone activity has boomed in the years since e-commerce has taken off. A whopping 60% of consumers say that phone calls are their preferred method of conversation with a business. Phone calls are crucial for helping to connect businesses with their customers and deliver transactional results. The global contact center market size is set out to grow in value by 156.6 billion US dollars between 2020 and 2027. But while the contact center industry doesn’t seem to be burning out anytime soon, the employees working at them are.
Happy employees lead to happy customers. It all ties together in your call center metrics. So to the question: what are call center metrics? Quite simply: all the elements important to keeping a contact center functioning, including customer experience and agent productivity. This article will guide you through ways to increase agent productivity and customer experience by reducing agent burnout.
Burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. It's the result of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout leaves employees feeling depleted and cynical about their work. Sounds pretty nasty, right? As the face of your business, if your employees are feeling this way in the contact center, your customer conversion rates will be looking pretty nasty too.
The one positive is that it is preventable and manageable. If you navigate burnout as recommended in this article, you will be on your way to maintaining a healthy and happy workforce. The first step is recognizing the reasons your employees feel stressed and distanced from their work in the first place.
After a long hard day staring at a screen and speaking on the phone, agents need a break. The problem is that in this day and age, work can often follow employees home. While mobile phones have had a positive impact on the productivity and mobility of a workforce, they also pose the threat of compromising work-life balance. Some workers no longer leave work at the office, and remote work has only amplified the issue.
Due to the fast-paced nature of call centers and increasing demand for workers, the provision of adequate training can sometimes be overlooked. If agents aren’t properly trained and don’t know the contact center’s long-term goals, they won’t feel valued or understand how they fit into the company. This can lead to feelings of demotivation and distance from our work.
If an agent doesn’t feel supported, they will burn out. If managers are not invested in them and their work, they will begin to question why they should be either. Offering support takes effort; a quick “well done” as you walk past someone’s desk will not do the trick.
Add to that the fact that remote working is increasing in popularity (it’s estimated that in 2025 70% of work will be done remotely), and it’s not surprising to find that reported feelings of isolation are on the increase. It has become more important than ever to put time aside for your employees and to recognize their efforts.
Contact center agents have to deal with other people’s stresses day in, day out. They also have to do so with a smile on their face. They will also most likely be monitored. Whether the aims of the tracking are based on good business practices or not, knowing you’re being recorded can lead to feeling there’s no room for error, which can in turn lead to feelings of suffocation and self-consciousness.
Burnout is inevitable if agents don’t have anywhere to discuss such concerns, or, more simply, just to vent.
You will have customers at the forefront of your mind when investing in new technology. You may have, for example, worked out that you can switch between remote phone systems using a VoIP port number and avoid having to change your business’ phone number. While this is great for customer call quality, and means they can still contact you on the same number, how much time have you put into thinking about new technology that will benefit your employees?
The repetitive nature of working in a contact center can have adverse mental effects. If employees don’t feel they’re working towards something, they may begin to burn out. It is important to ensure that employees feel they are recognized and rewarded for hard work to some degree, and that loyalty to the company holds long-term benefits.
If your agents do not feel empowered, they will fall victim to burnout. Autonomy directly relates to a sense of wellbeing. If agents are not being treated like autonomous human beings they will, unsurprisingly, stop enjoying their work.
If you have an app your employees use to access work, use mobile application testing services to ensure the app is functional and is not inhibiting their ability to enjoy a good work-life balance. For example, if the working day ends at 5pm, ensure that the app stops sending notifications from this point onwards. This way agents do not feel obliged to work out of hours.
Another great way to improve work-life balance for your employees is to provide them with social opportunities. This will encourage friendships and foster social ties within the workplace. In doing so, you build a sense of community which promotes wellbeing but also provides an incentive for employees to remain with the company.
Well-trained staff are more confident and also more resilient in stressful environments. Training doesn’t just have to be for new employees. Training increases engagement and instills a sense of confidence in your workforce, however long they’ve been at your company. Continued training is likely to lead to the retention of employees, and offering new training gives them a sense of progression within the workplace.
There should be a feeling of support between colleagues and from management. However, it is in the manager’s hands to set the tone. Due to the increase in remote working, support needs to be intentional and consistent. One idea is to use gamification to build and motivate your remote team.
A more obvious way to provide support to remote workers is to be active on live chats and video calls, making sure each individual feels seen and heard. Be sure to set aside one-to-one time to check in on agents regularly. When you do speak to them, ask them about work, but also about how they’re feeling.
Managers can also empower agents by giving them access to automated scorecards. With Invoca for Sales, you can set up criteria for what makes a successful sales call. Invoca will automatically score each call accordingly. Agents can view these scorecards to get instant feedback on their performance. Managers can also interact in the platform and @mention agents to coach them in real time and make them feel more supported.
Use your company intranet to its full potential. By personalizing websites, you can convert your intranet into a space where employees can go to let off steam. For example, you can offer an ‘if you feel stressed’ section advising some breathing exercises and stretches to do at their desk.
Intranets are generally underused but can improve employee wellbeing by a significant measure. Agents find reassurance through having access to training materials and encouragement through notifications of upcoming company events. In times of stress, a well-developed intranet space will help agents feel they have a community to turn to.
If agents don’t feel they have the adequate technology to support them, they’ll start to think of technology as an enemy rather than a friend. Consider, for example, the fact that agents may have to deal with spam callers phoning in from a cloud mobile phone service with non-fixed VoIP. This type of situation leads to unnecessary frustration for the agents and holdups in their working day.
With the right technology, this situation can be avoided. The use of IVR can block VoIP spam callers. Alternatively, AI that will identify spam callers and redirect them can be invested in. This type of investment in technology will make your agents’ lives much easier.
Incentivization begins with communicating long-term goals. You want to avoid that separation between management and employees that can grow and fester in a workplace when big company decisions give the appearance of being made in private, and ensuring that every member of the company understands where you are headed as a collective and how day-to-day decisions affect the progression of the company is a good way to start.
Goals should be visible in the office, so that employees are reminded daily of why their work is meaningful within the company. From here, you can explain to individuals how their work personally contributes towards the company goals.
Another common issue is that agent goals can be subjective. To solve this issue, leading teams use Invoca for Sales to automatically QA and score their calls. With this technology, managers can objectively measure agent performance on every call. This makes it easier to structure fair incentives and ensure every agent is adequately compensated for their efforts.
Stop micromanaging! While it can be tempting to want your contact center agents to stick tightly to a script, this doesn’t benefit anyone. By giving your agents more freedom you are allowing them to feel in control over their lives. This responsibility means they are not only more likely to stay loyal to you but also to form longer-lasting connections with customers.
Whether you're an inbound contact center or a cold calling contact center, you need to understand and be aware of agent burnout. Through navigating burnout in the ways recommended here, you will be bolstering your ability to retain agents. You can even use call center data to improve efficiency by using it to recognize when you need fewer agents on hand. This way you can give those agents who seem to be reaching the end of their tether breaks when they need them.
It’s a case of prevention, rather than cure. Reducing burnout will not only improve workplace culture and employee longevity but also inevitably boost customer conversion rates. If your employees are feeling energized and confident, your customers will sense it through speaking to them. Optimistic agents mean optimistic customers, and an all-around better contact center experience.
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8x8, a leading communication platform with integrated contact center, call center analysis, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments. He has written for sites like Premio.io and Smith.ai. Check out his LinkedIn.